Friday, October 9, 2015

Raise the Beds!

By Stacey Cooper, Co-op Farm Manager

I stumbled across an very interesting new method of growing veggie crops, which I have decided to try to incorporate in the gardens here at Shaker Village.
The method is inspired by Jean-Martin Fortier, reminiscent of the French Intensive methods used in Europe.
The theory goes that by creating permanent raised beds we can increase production, protect soil integrity and reduce labor and equipment needs. By raising the beds we aim to protect the soil from compaction, via rain and snow as well as human and equipment traffic.
In order to accomplish this on already planted and weedy soils, we first used the tractor mounted tiller to till up the soils, which helped to loosen them. Key to the second step, which was to then shovel soil from the areas that are to be paths up onto the beds.  After digging down the paths and building up the raised beds, we leveled them off with rake, spread our own compost, leveled them again, installed drip irrigation lines, spread newspaper and then put down mulch hay.
The compost is key as it provides long term nutrients.  In an un-tilled soil, compost and manure can be more effective in that the soil structure and microorganism populations are maintained, allowing the soil to stay healthy and better utilize the nutrients that are locked up in the compost.
Being that it is fall, I chose to layer the tops of the beds with newspaper to protect the newly loosened soil over the winter from rain and snow, which cause saturated soils and compaction, which would un-do all the work.
I wet down the newspaper and then spread hay mulch on top, essentially just to have something to hold the news paper in place.  Although we do intend to plant strawberries in these beds in the spring so the mulch will also be useful to suppress weeds. I may use temporary wood chips or compost if I run out of hay mulch, which can removed or raked into the paths in the spring at time of planting.
Our new beds are intended to maintained by hand tools, with occasional shallow walk behind tiller usage if need be to break up dense weeds.
By creating 30" raised beds, we can easily reach across the entire bed to plant and harvest without over extended ourselves, which is better for employees and volunteers in the long run.
The deep loose soils of the raised beds allow for more dense production practices.  The roots of the plants have more room to grow down and therefore can be planted closer together without competing with each other.  In addition, dense plantings more readily out compete weeds resulting in (hopefully) better growing conditions and less labor.
In the spring, once we have planted the rows, we can use cardboard or carpeting in the paths to keep weeds out of the aisles during the growing season.
Here is hoping that our hard work pays off!  A big thank you to Ray and Richard for helping out on a big project!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Newspapers wanted!

This fall we are planting a crop of garlic as well as prepping raised beds for strawberries in the spring.  I am collecting newspaper to help mulch the aisles of the garlic rows once they are  planted. This will help to supress weeds next season.  I will also be preparing the strawberries beds this fall by creating raised beds, spreading compost and then layering with newspaper and mulch.  Being that strawberries need to be planted very early in the season I am attempting to prep the ground for them this fall and then protect the soil with the news paper  and hay mulch in order to avoid compaction of the soil over the winter.
If you have newspapers to recycle you can drop them off at the Concord store, just make sure to take out the "shiny" advertisements for me. Look for the green newspaper recycling bin in the café area.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Preparing for Fall at Shaker Organic Garden

We are down to the last fall crops.  A bit of arugula, chard, kale, salad turnips, scallions and few brassicas that may or may not size up.
We can expect spinach, radish and arugula from the hoop house for late fall.
Our week was spent cleaning, emptying fields, pulling plastic and irrigation lines, disposal of field debris, seeding spinach and radish, delivering pumpkins and winter squash, potting perennials, weeding, and cleaning the education garden.
Kenn and I were able to dedicate a day to the education garden and made some great progress.  We weeded, transplanted, divided and potted up plants.  Another day of cutting back plants and potentially mulching and the garden will be set for the fall.
I will be limiting deliveries to the Co op to once per week as there is less produce being harvested. The farm stand at the Village will probably get stocked once more next week and then be done for the season, with the exception of pumpkins and maybe more apples if we get out to harvest more next week.
There is a lot of planning left to do in regards for next years crops, which I will start in earnest next week.


Friday, September 4, 2015

Shaker Organic Garden Update

Check out Stacey's latest update from Shaker Organic Garden...

This week we've been busily prepping for the Artisan festival and the benefit dinner next weekend. These activities include cleaning and hanging all of the ornamental corn, shelling heirloom beans, harvesting corn stalks, harvesting pumpkins and winter squash (it was an early crop and the groundhogs were starting to take a serious interest).
Most of these items are hanging in the attic of the garden barn, which is set up for drying crops.  Despite being on the third floor it is quite pleasant inside during the early part of the day.  It is really beautiful with all of the hanging plants!
I will be doing a demonstration for the festival on bean threshing and winnowing.  A farmer friend is trying to help me set up a bike powered winnower for the event, however we may not have time in which case I will do it the even more old fashioned way, by hand.
We have set up the farm stand nicely in front of the Box Lunch stand with hanging lattice structures to display some our drying beans, corn and herbs.
I've started harvesting fall root crops such as rutabaga, turnip, carrots, onions, celeriac and soon diakon.  Some of these I will put directly into storage and save for later fall for the Co-op and the Shaker Table.  It will give me a chance to catch up in the field a bit if I'm not packing and delivering quite so much for a few weeks and also help to extend the season a bit.
Soon I'll be planting some late fall crops of spinach and arugula in the hoop house.  The day time temperatures are still a bit too hot, so I'm waiting a bit longer than I might normally.
We have some beautiful red stem small turnips that you should look for at the Co-op early next week.  They are a beautiful magenta color.
My volunteers have really stepped up and helped out during the last part of the busy harvest season, which has been very welcome!


Friday, July 24, 2015

Summer Update from Shaker Organic Garden

Read the latest from Co-op Organic Garden manager Stacey...
A garden update for this week:
The beans are in full swing, it takes up to 2.5 hours a day to pick them all!  They should be tapering off soon.
The blood meal seems to have worked to keep the ground hog away for the time being. Japanese beetles are now the pest of the week.
I've dug new potatoes, which if I do say so myself are amazing. They are huge. I really think the combination of drip irrigation, straw hilling and side dressing with bone char was the magic combination!  While the soil test results read that our soil phosphorus levels are high, potato yields still benefit from a light side dressing of phosphorous.  They suffered severely from leaf hopper damage, however because they are an early variety it didn't' seem to affect the yield. I would love to do more next year.  Because of the leaf hopper damage, I may need to harvest the fingerlings for the September dinner early.
We've also started harvesting carrots (3 colors) and giant green bell peppers. Eggplant and tomatoes should be along soon, along with shell beans.  The tomato plants are loaded, just waiting for them to size up.  A few sungolds are ripening each day, just enough for a snack at this point.
I've seeded some experimental crops to see if we can create a really nice mix of fall greens for the harvest dinners including red stem salad turnip, baby beets, baby chard and daikon to go along (hopefully) a lot of head lettuce.
We've started cover cropping some of the fallow areas.  Luke, from Brookford Farm, will bring our tiller over next week and help me adjust the PTO shaft to fit our tractor on site.  I'll be able to till up larger sections of the field with it and get more cover crops in.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Take a Tour of the Organic Gardens

If you aren't able to make it out to Canterbury Shaker Village anytime soon to see the organic gardens, take a virtual tour with Co-op Organic Garden Manager Stacey Cooper instead! Watch the video below...

You can find fresh produce daily at the Shaker Box Lunch and Farm Stand, 288 Shaker Rd, Canterbury, NH or at the Concord location of Concord Food Co-op.

For more information about the strategic partnership between Concord Food Co-op and Canterbury Shaker Village visit...

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Shaker Farm Stand is Open!

Co-op Organic Garden Manager Stacey and her team of amazing volunteers are harvesting their efforts in the form of fresh certified organic produce and delivering it to the Co-op and the Canterbury Shaker Village Lunch Box Farm Stand.
You can find USDA certified organic produce picked fresh that morning!

You can even take a tour of the Village which includes access to see the working organic garden. Stop and say if you see Stacey and her volunteers working!
The Shaker Box Lunch and Farm Stand is at 288 Shaker Rd, Canterbury, NH.